An interview with Tom Hardy from the French magazine Jalouse, Sept 2012. Translated by me. (As always, please do let me know if I’ve translated incorrectly.)
A superstar almost in spite of himself, Tom Hardy is, at 34 years old, the most in demand British actor in Hollywood. After Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the sirupy This Means War and the masterful blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises, he returns selling alcohol with a big heart but a relative compassion in Lawless opposite Jessica Chastain. A conversation with a cinematographic phenomenon making a comeback.
Was it difficult to go from playing Bane, the arch nemesis of Batman, to playing Forrest Bondurant, head of a family selling alcohol in the middle of Prohibition?
What was most difficult about playing Forrest was to not make him macho. Reading the script, you imagine playing him like Clint Eastwood, laconic and violent, like a backwoods Al Capone. But what fascinated me about him, was the contrast between his calmness and his internal torment. He had to bring out his feminine side, his attentive side, the part that loves order, cleanliness… Furthermore, Forrest has remained a virgin for 40 years. His life is turned upside down when Maggie arrives. She will shake him up. Until then, he’s looked after his two brothers, he’s almost been like a mother to them. In the end, my greatest influence to create Forrest was the grandmother from Tweety Bird!
Are you ambitious?
No, honestly, I surprised I’m still on track, that I’m still alive even. The little talent that I have, I’ve used it. It doesn’t belong to me. And so, I’ve let it grow. I want to do a little of everything: writing, production, directing… I’m a risktaker. But who knows where I’ll be in ten years?
Do you have to be lawless in order to be an actor?
When someone says to me: I’m an anarchist!, he ceases to exist for me, that very second. To question the system, to be able to go into a spin, that takes structure, intelligence, strength… The people who get there, they usually keep their mouths shut. It’s the same for an actor: to follow no laws, but to remain uncompromising towards yourself and your work. And, I say it again, you also have to be lucky. In this profession, there’s one part who adores you, one part who hate you and the rest have no idea that you exist!
Does it bother you being hated?
For me, it’s like love… It’s always better than indifference. Indifference, that’s the worst. A complete loss of energy. With the people who hate me, it’s up to me to make them pay to go see me!
After Warrior, are people looking to fight you on a night out?
No. I’m very gentle. Like a lamb. No one comes looking to mess with me. I keep a low profile. There’s nothing evil in me. You only have to take one look at me and the guys say to themselves: Leave him be, he’s an actor!
You seem to want to go through the ordeal of changing your body for every role…
I gained weight for Bronson, lost it for Warrior and had to gain it back for Batman. And now, another diet… I have two reasons for this. Firstly, necessity. I have to work, so when a director asks me to gain weight or lose it, I do my part to create a believable character. Also, I’ve found it’s good for my mentality. You feel ready, ready to go as far as possible. The public wants to completely believe in you. I don’t care for actors who only does it half-way. As a kid, my idols were Gary Oldman, Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Gene Hackman… Great actors, but also real personalities!
Ex-drug addict and alcoholic, you’ve know been accepted in Hollywood. You’ve been lucky…
I’ve most of all had the fortune of meeting people who listened to me. I’ve been sober ten years! Damn, I tried it all. I was so long gone that I either had to stop or die. I wanted to live fast, but like an idiot, and of course, one day you’re wallowing in it… But the demons are still sleeping within me. So I have a constant dialogue with the young man I was. Today, I’m much wiser and I’m concentrating on things a lot more sane.
Is that why you support so many charity organisations in Britain?
Yes, because throughout my life, inspite of my suffering, I came across people to hold my hand. I had to fool myself in order to find some consistency in what I was doing. The support for the homeless, war veterans, the battle against cancer… I work with seven organisations. For me, it’s not just about creating an image or a name. It’s not a hobby or a way to make me look good. On the contrary, I wished from the beginning that they’d have substansive work for me. A real collaboration, which I could use with theatre studios, to help young people in need, etc.
Are you happy in Hollywood?
I have good reason to, no? I find myself in that privileged position where I can chose my scripts, work with people I’m passionate about, gather casts, start film projects, television projects… Ten years ago, I was broke and all I wanted to was work. I got into damned fights. So now, I try to benefit as much as I can. Los Angeles can become a very sad place, very cold when you’re penniless, unlucky, desperate. Being an actor without work in Hollywood can totally fuck you up.
And now you’re filming Fury Road, the reboot of Mad Max…
I’m completely there already. I’ve grown a beard to make it look realistic, even if everyone around me thinks it’s ugly. The first Mad Max was released the same year that I was born. My first dog was called Mad Max. It’s a legend. And today, it’s me who resumes driving. Can you imagine, dude? It’s huge!